Cooke Panchro/i and Sony Venice Put a Vintage Polish on a Modern Story

Cooke panchro skam france

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans chose a Sony Venice camera fitted with with Cooke Panchro/i Classic lenses to shoot Seasons 3 and 4 of 'Skam France', the French version of the Norwegian web series ‘Skam’ that follows a group of teenagers through their everyday lives of school, love and dreams.

Xavier Dolléans and director David Hourrègue have worked together on all four seasons of the show, and shot Seasons 3 and 4 simultaneously. The overall look of the show has a classic, vintage quality but in these two episodes, the stories take a darker turn.

Cooke panchro skam france2

“The characters of Lucas, who is the focus of Season 3, and Imane in Season 4, both become isolated and lonely. I suggested to David that we use full frame cinematography and the camera’s precise, narrow depth of field for specific moments to emphasise their feelings,” Xavier said. “We chose the Sony Venice camera because of its high sensitivity, which would be a great help for the many night scenes we had, and it also allowed us to shoot either Super 35mm or full frame. We shot Season 3 mainly on S35 and switched to full frame for those lonelier sequences. Around three-quarters of Season 4 was shot full frame.”

With a high sensitivity camera like the Sony Venice, Xavier soon realised that, to preserve the vintage look he wanted, he would need to combine the high resolution of the very sharp sensor with very gentle lenses.

“I tested several different lenses, including old Cooke Speed Panchros which give variations like imperfections along the edges and delicate diffusion on the faces. Used with the Venice, they seemed like a good match for our show in terms of image rendering,” he said.

Cooke SKAM France Mathilde Esteves

However, Xavier and David Hourrègue had made a firm artistic and technical decision to always shoot with two cameras and use only prime lenses. Therefore, they needed two identical sets of prime lenses. This complicated their preparations for the shoot because vintage Cooke Speed Panchros are often rehoused and sets may comprise a mixture of Cooke S3 and the older Cooke S2. Finding two identical sets would have been virtually impossible. Xavier spoke to Didier Grèzes from hire company Nextshot, who suggested he should test the new Cooke Panchro/i Classics series.

“They had the attributes of the old Cooke Speed Panchros with a modern housing similar to that of Cooke S4/i,” Xavier said. “Then we realised that the Panchro/i Classics cover the full frame from the 50mm, with little vignetting, up to the 100mm lens, which is great because the 50mm on a full frame sensor is closer to a 35mm (equivalent S35) in terms of field of view, enough for most of our wide shots on ‘Skam’.

“You really can isolate actors from the background at T2.2, and the beautiful painterly, blurred bokeh of the Cooke Panchro/i Classics is even more pronounced. Those characteristics, combined with the Venice, gave me an ideal tool.”

Cooke panchro skam france3a

Xavier mainly used the 32, 40, 50 and 75 mm focal lengths, and when shooting full frame he used the 50mm for wide shots and the 100mm for close ups. Nextshot supplied the lenses, with help from Emit, Cooke’s distributor in France.  

“For me, working with Cooke lenses is like having a brush that delicately polishes the picture,” he said. “The Panchro/i Classics offer a slightly different tone of diffusion into Cooke’s palette, producing a fine balance between the vintage look, the gentleness for faces, good aperture for night work, and good form factor for camera assistants and operators.”